Uncovering Mauritius through street food

Posted by Nidha Narrandes on 8 January 2019

Dining trends have shifted dramatically towards informal, casual settings. The reinvention and popularity of tapas has shown us that chefs and restaurants no longer conform to dishing out their fanciest food in five-star establishments. Great food has no set look or style anymore, and – dare we say it – some of the most desirable dishes can be found at street vendors.

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is known for its rich street food culture and has even been recognised as one of the best places for roadside cuisine the world over by The Telegraph.

On a recent trip to the magical island, curated by The Attitude Hotel Group, I used the handy Otentik App to navigate the busy streets in search of the best street food the city centre has to offer.

You start by downloading the Otentik Discovery App, available for both Android and Apple users. The start point is the Le Caudan Waterfront Mall – the most popular shopping centre in Mauritius.

Besides water, a sunhat, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes, here are six guidelines to journeying through Port Louis’s street food scene:

1. Try everything at once:

The air in the capital, Port Louis, is humid and thick with aromas of roasted spices, roti toasting on hot pans and happiness. The streets are alive with intense colour and people hurrying from place to place. Weaving through the crowds, the Otentik Discovery App will lead you to the first stop – Alouda Pillay. What exactly is Alouda? if you’re a fan of Indian cuisine, then you would have tried falooda – a refreshing milk drink made with vanilla, basil seeds, agar jelly and served over ice – Alouda is exactly this. And, judging by the crowds, Pillay’s has the winning recipe. My best advice is to pace yourself – this is just the beginning.

 

2. Stop over at Maraz Dholl Puri

The next stop is non-negotiable. Maraz is world-famous for its vegetarian Dholl Puri. Experienced hands turn out buttery roti, a little singed, lacy and layered, with a pea dholl and spicy vegetable curry. The roti is folded into a paper and handed over. Don’t stray too far from the stall – you’ll definitely want seconds.

 

3. Mix up your food experience

Like most cities, Mauritius is an eclectic mix of cultures which plays out on your plate. The Chinese biscuit shop is not quite what you expect it to be; red doors lead into a very small shop, but the flavours are big and that’s what we’re here for. Sugary doughnuts, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and unusual Chinese desserts are on display – try a little of each, how else will you decide what you like? Cafe Shanghai is another stop along the way. Its noodle dishes are legendary, and I love the uncluttered simplicity of the food.

 

4. Lose yourself in the street art

Mauritius will surprise you at every turn. I didn’t quite expect works of art to punctuate the busy sidewalks and dusty parking lots, and it is a much welcome distraction from ordinary life. The street art is exciting and as you stroll along the city streets you begin to notice how much art is embraced on the island.

5. Don’t forget to look up

In-between your search for street art and the right turn to your next taste adventure, don’t forget to look up. As you cross over into Chinatown, dragons swoop overhead and lanterns sway in the wind. You can’t miss the kaleidoscope of colorful umbrellas that greet you at Le Caudan Mall. Mosques that have stood the test of time can be seen as you walk along and carved doorways frame old weathered buildings. Here lies the pieces to the puzzle that make up Mauritius and her people – all you have to do is look a little closer.

6. Bargain well

As at every marketplace, bargaining with the locals is an integral part of the experience. While trying to drive the price down you might also learn something about the generations of craftsmen who sold their wares for years at the very same market. Be kind to the islanders, they are working-class citizens too. And make sure you leave with a momento, one that tells a story of a hot summer’s day, a belly full of great local food and an experience that will last a lifetime.

 

Pictures: Nidha Narrandes

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